Saint NameStephen, the First Martyr : S00030
Saint Name in SourceΣτέφανος
Type of EvidenceInscriptions - Inscribed architectural elements
Evidence not before500
Evidence not after600
Activity not before500
Activity not after600
Place of Evidence - RegionPalestine with Sinai
Place of Evidence - City, village, etcSobata
Place of evidence - City name in other Language(s)Sobata
Cult activities - PlacesCult building - independent (church)
Cult activities - Non Liturgical Practices and CustomsPrayer/supplication/invocation
Cult Activities - Protagonists in Cult and NarrativesOther lay individuals/ people
SourceThe inscription was carved on the abacus of a capital, found in an unknown location in the city of Shivta (ancient Sobata), just possibly in the 'Central Church', as suggested by Avraham Negev.
The inscription was found by Harris Colt who surveyed Sobata in 1933-1935 on behalf of the British School of Archaeology in Jerusalem. Most of the written records of the Colt Expedition, were, however, lost in a fire, and the archive of the mission, which is now in the Department of Antiquities and Museums in Jerusalem, is lacunose. Avraham Negev found a transcription of the present text in the archive, but the file did not provide any detailed description of the find-spot or photograph. Negev published the inscription in 1981, with the permission of the DAM and the BSA.
DiscussionThe inscription is a common invocation on behalf of an unnamed donor, of which we find many in the region. It is very probable that the man offered the column, which bore this capital, to one of the churches in Sobata. The church could well have been dedicated to Stephen, whose cult was popular in the Negev.
Dating: There is no reliable way to date the inscription. This kind of invocation is usually placed in the 6th c.
Negev, A., The Greek Inscriptions from the Negev (Jerusalem: Franciscan Printing Press, 1981), no. 70.
Figueras, P., "Monks and monasteries in the Negev desert", Liber Annuus 45 (1995), 440.
Supplementum Epigraphicum Graecum 31, 1448.